Aug 31, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell watches his team play the Northern Iowa Panthers at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones won 29-26 in three overtimes. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
There are less than 100 days remaining between us and the start of the 2020 football season and it feels like a good time to start really diving into Iowa State’s scheduled slate of games. These rankings are based on a number of factors ranging from talent opponents have returning to league standing ramifications to past history.
Here is how I rank the 12 games on Iowa State’s 2020 football schedule as of June 9.
12 – South Dakota, Sept. 5
Simply, this is a game against an FCS team that went 5-7 last season. Yes, the Coyotes did end their season with a win over arch-rival South Dakota State, which will be one of the top FCS teams in the country in the preseason. Honestly, I’m just glad it is a one-year break from Iowa State playing Northern Iowa, especially considering the Panthers could be a top-five FCS team in the preseason.
11 – UNLV, Sept. 19
The Runnin’ Rebels went 4-8 last season, including back-to-back wins over San Jose State and Nevada to end the regular season and have a new head coach in former Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. A funny note – the UNLV 2020 football season Wikipedia page has this as the final line to its introduction, “Due to coaching and player changes, it is expected for the 2020 UNLV Rebels football team to finish a winless season.” Some brutal honesty from whoever wrote that.
10 – @ Kansas, Oct. 3
Year two of the Les Miles era in Lawrence comes with the requirement of replacing three starters on the offensive line, the starting quarterback and eight starters on the defensive side of the ball. The bright side – first-team All-Big 12 running back Pooka Williams is back for his junior year looking to build on his consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
9 – Texas Tech, Sept. 26
Would it shock me if Texas Tech made a little bit of a year-two jump under head coach Matt Wells? No, it would not. But, the reality is the offense is still really young with only two seniors plus four sophomores, including the quarterback and running back, listed as projected starters. The Red Raiders should be a tough match-up most every week, but the number of wins could rely on how quickly some of their youth progresses.
8 – West Virginia, Nov. 27
Another team that was ridiculously young last season, especially after injuries ravaged the roster down the stretch. The offensive lines will be replacing three starters and there is expected to be a quarterback battle between Jarret Doege and Austin Kendall. The defense has talent but will be inexperienced in the secondary with three sophomores and a freshman listed among the five projected starters.
7 – @ TCU, Nov. 7
The Horned Frogs just seven starters… total. Now, that number does include sophomore quarterback, and Council Bluffs native, Max Duggan, who showed his potential during his first year in Fort Worth. Gary Patterson teams generally seem to figure it out, but that could be an uphill climb with that many guys to replace.
6 – Baylor, Nov. 14
Can the Bears maintain their defensive success while trying to replace 10 starters? That will be the biggest question in Dave Aranda’s first season. Quarterback Charlie Brewer is back and has some skill players at his disposal on the offensive side, but, again, Baylor’s ability to sustain the success they had last year under Matt Rhule will fall on how the defense comes together.
5 – Kansas State, Oct. 29
As much as anything, this ranking is based on the absolute stinker Iowa State put together to end the regular season last year in Manhattan. I imagine the guys in Ames will be ready for this one on a Thursday night in late October. Only two starters return on offense for Chris Klieman’s squad, but seven of them are back for one of the league’s best defenses.
4 – @ Texas, Nov. 21
Sam Ehlinger is back and so are six other starters on offense. The defense brings back nine starters from last season. Texas has tons of talent as they always do. If that talent all comes together, the Longhorns could challenge for the Big 12 title. If it doesn’t, it could be another relatively disappointing season in Austin.
3 – @ Oklahoma State, Oct. 10
The Cowboys bring back 11 starters on defense and eight on offense. Those eight on offense include sophomore quarterback Spencer Sanders and junior running back Chuba Hubbard, who could be the best skill position player in the league. On paper, this looks like it could be Mike Gundy’s best team in awhile.
2 – Oklahoma, Oct. 17
Until someone dethrones them, the Sooners will be considered the kings of the Big 12 in the preseason every year. Lincoln Riley’s squad returns nine players on defense and eight players on offense, but the players they have to replace include star quarterback Jalen Hurts and the nation’s best receiver in 2019 CeeDee Lamb. If Spencer Rattler or Tanner Mordecai can slide into the role behind center smoothly, then Oklahoma most likely won’t skip a beat.
1 – @ Iowa, Sept. 12
Call it the Super Bowl or whatever the heck you want. The fact remains Matt Campbell has not beat the Cyclones’ arch-rival since he arrived in Ames. Last year’s game was a wild one between rain delays, questionable officiating and whatever the heck it was that happened on the last punt. This game in Kinnick Stadium will be a big one and could be a potential springboard for Iowa State moving towards league-play.